The inventor of a telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, did some of his most important experimental work at Brantford, Ontario. His profession was teaching deaf people to lip-read, and curing impediments of speech. He also liked to play the piano.
One day he was visiting the home of Mabel Hubbard in Boston. He was playing the piano and suddenly she said to her father, “Mr. Hubbard, sir, do you know that if I depress the forte pedal and sing “do” into the piano, the proper note will answer me, like this?” He pressed the pedal and sang “do”; the piano responded like an echo. Then he went on to explain that if two pianos in two different places were connected by a wire, and a note was struck on one, the same note would respond in the other! It was the beginning of what was known as the “multiple telegraph” from which Bell developed the telephone. Mr. Hubbard became one of his backers, and Bell married his daughter.
American publications often do not mention Bell’s work in Canada on the development of the telephone. When the Bell Memorial was unveiled in Brantford, Ontario, on October 24, 1917, Alexander Graham Bell said that the telephone had been conceived in Brantford in 1874 and born in Boston in 1876. Brantford could justly claim the invention of the telephone and the first transmission of the human voice over real live wires.
In 1876, using the wires of the Dominion Telegraph Company, Bell installed a telephone transmitter in Paris and a receiver in Brantford, twelve (eight miles) away. This was the first telephone call in history. Transmission went one way only but voices came through so clearly that Bell knew that his father was one of the speakers although he had not expected him to be there. The transmitter was in Paris, the receiver in Brantford, and the electric battery that enabled the sound to travel through wires was in Toronto, 109 km (68 miles) away!
Alexander Graham Bell had wire strung all around Brantford, using stove pipes for poles. He was known as “Crazy Bell,” and invented the telephone a Boston newspaper insisted that he should be arrested for leading people to believe that it was possible to talk through a wire. Altogether, he had to face 600 lawsuits from others who claimed that they had invented the telephone. One of the claimants was a man called Reis. When his “telephone” was demonstrated in court, it failed to transmit speech. His lawyer explained, “It can speak, but it won’t!” The patent for the telephone turned out to be the most valuable in the history of the world.
If you want to read more about this great man, I would suggest first reading a fascinating 71-page (.pdf) document “The Unveiling of the Bell Memorial” at the Brantford Library, and then visit the City of Brantford, and finally I suggest the Library of Congress
to read a letter from Alexander Graham Bell to Frederick W. Baldwin, December 24, 1917 – interesting digital version!
- The Newfangled Telephone Doesn’t Work! (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- Researchers hear telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell’s voice for the first time (video) (venturebeat.com)
- The Remarkable Genius of Alexander Graham Bell by Jim Lehrer (ghostsofdc.org)